Gardening at Fortress Louisbourg

Carla Allen
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A seven-minute bus ride takes you from the visitor’s centre to Fortress Louisbourg in Cape Breton, North America’s largest historical reconstruction.

This fortress was one of the busiest harbours in North America and one of France's key centres of trade and military strength in the New World.

There are several gardens on site, which I was able to stroll through recently.

Terry Campbell is one of the gardeners at Fortress Louisbourg. She’s been gardening for 10 years here and says there is a selection of medicinal and culinary herbs, and a variety of heirloom greens, beans,

peas and root crops.

“We selected the oldest varieties we could find, based on seeds found on the site, descriptions of what was grown here in the 18th century, and from various reference sources describing the oldest heirloom

vegetables,” she said in an email interview.

In the 18th century, the herbs were used for culinary and medicinal purposes, and the vegetables were used as food, eaten fresh and preserved either by being dried, or packed in root cellars as salted, pickled or preserved stores.

Today, the gardeners supply herbs to the period restaurants on site. The herbs and vegetables are also used for culinary demonstration purposes in the animated houses and in medicinal workshops and demonstrations.

There are several challenges to growing gardens this far north in Nova Scotia. The climate is wet and cold and there are insects and slugs. Horse manure compost, grass/vegetable compost, bone meal and blood meal help to nourish the plants into abundance.

The gardeners begin planting seeds as early as the end of May and through June (depending on the weather). Transplants are put out the end of June or the beginning of July. Louisbourg is usually about a month behind other regions on Cape Breton Island.

The last vegetables are harvested in late October, but can be collected as late as November due to the warmth of the ocean water, which keeps the Fall mild in the area.

This summer, gardening seminars were held on site. Participants spent time in the authentic 18th century French gardens with a costumed gardener. They learned about period herbal remedies; discovered plants grown from heritage seed strains; found out why raised beds and hotbeds are best in certain climates and why companion planting works so well.

They also gained knowledge about the 18th century French colonial potager and upper class ornamental gardens.

Check out these educational opportunities on their website if you visit next year.




Geographic location: Louisbourg, North America, France Nova Scotia Cape Breton Island

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